Green light for graduated driving license trial in Northern Ireland. Is the rest of the UK next?
Back in February, Theresa May requested the Department for Transport (DfT) explore the introduction of graduated driver licensing (GDL) scheme in the UK, in a bid to reduce the number of novice drivers killed and injured on the road.
A pilot scheme is set to be launched in Northern Ireland in 2019, and if it proves to be successful it will be rolled out across the rest of the UK. Under the scheme, learners must take lessons for at least six months, and ‘P’ plates are compulsory for two years after passing.
Similar schemes have been practiced in the US, Canada and Australia for years, with graduated driver licensing generally restricting night time, motorway, and unsupervised driving during initial stages. The restrictions are lifted after a set amount of time, and a further test of the individual is necessary before the driver eventually attains a ‘full’ licence.
The prime minister’s request came after Jenny Chapman, Labour MP for Darlington stated in parliament that one in four young drivers are involved in an accident within the first two years of passing their test, and young drivers are involved in 400 road deaths or serious injuries each year.
“There are too many people who suffer a loss and tragedy at the hands of learner drivers and we will look at that,” the PM said.
Sarah Sillars, IAM RoadSmart chief executive said: “IAM RoadSmart welcomes the new scheme for GDL in Northern Ireland. Road crashes are the biggest killer of young people in the UK today. New drivers are most at risk in their first year of driving and yet the current system abandons them to learn by their own, sometimes fatal, mistakes.”
Commenting on the announcement, RAC road safety spokesperson Pete Williams said: “The RAC’s Report on Motoring showed that 35% of young drivers felt the standard driving test does not cover all the skills required to cope with the demands of driving today.
“The RAC has been calling for a reform of driving education for young people and the introduction of graduated driving licences with a minimum supervised learning period and restrictions on the number of passengers permitted in the car so this is a very positive step.”
Joshua Harris, Director of Campaigns at road safety charity Brake, said: “Ensuring that novice drivers have the skills and experience to drive safely on all types of roads, and in all scenarios, is an urgent priority.”
“Our current licensing system is not fit for purpose and throws newly-qualified drivers in at the deep-end, at great risk to themselves and others.”
According to Brake, drivers should hold a novice licence for two years after passing a practical driving test. They should be allowed to drive unsupervised, but with certain restrictions on their driving, including:
- Novice drivers should not carry passengers who are younger than 25 unless supervised. Novice drivers who are parents or carers and need to carry children should be exempt from this restriction.
- Novice drivers should not drive between 11pm and 6am, unless supervised or travelling directly from home to work or school.
- Novice drivers should have a zero tolerance drink drive limit of 20mg of alcohol per 100ml blood (Brake recommends this for all drivers).
- Novice drivers should not drive on motorways.